Who do you think the person standing next to you in the coffee line is? Who do you think the teenager that just raced past you in the street is? Who do you think I am?
If you saw me an hour ago you would have seen me giving food to a homeless man. If you’d seen me an hour before that you would have seen me rolling my eyes with barely concealed frustration on the packed subway. An hour before that I was laughing with my husband. Half an hour before that I was arguing with him.
It’s all just snapshots. Fragments of time. Yet, we judge each other because of them.
We can’t take in the entire picture of every single person we know so it stands to reason that we we most certainly can’t for those we don’t know. Instead, we craft a story about what we believe them to be about.
Interestingly, judgement isn’t always about viewing someone in a negative light. Often, it can be fabricating a fantasy around their lives based on snippets of what we see. Or, more accurately, what we think we see.
How many times do we look at social media with an envy of a life that seems so perfect. Smiling faces. Blissful relationships. Endless fun.
Is that your constant reality? It’s definitely not mine.
I have designed a life I love but that doesn’t mean I jump out of bed every day with a beaming smile and then go on to serenely say ‘love and light’ to every person I meet that day.
I may wake feeling joyous. I may wake feeling depressed. Either way, I’m not defined by it.
I’m not ‘good’ and I’m not ‘bad’. I’m just a human with the capacity to feel a whole range of emotions. I don’t want to wear a label.
It’s not realistic to ask ourselves never to judge anyone again. To never create a story around how fabulous/awful/amazing someone is from the thirty second window from which we viewed them. But perhaps we need to keep in mind that it is just a snapshot. And, a subjective one at that. It may even be a series of snapshots. Perhaps a whole album. But it’s unlikely to be the whole story.
The pictures shown in the image above are stills taken from two videos I released on my site and on social media. They are the two most viewed videos on my Facebook page. And they are poles apart.
One video is of me in the midst of a difficult few days. I talk openly about depression and how I manage it. I speak about how it feels to live with darkness and I don’t dress it up.
The other video is of me dancing like a lunatic to Uptown Funk which I filmed as part of a themed day where I was documenting and celebrating all the moments I experienced joy.
If you watched only the first video, you may be left with an impression that I live my life battling the shadows, rather than feeling the warmth of the light.
If you watched only the second video, you may think I am full of fun and frivolity and that I approach everything with exuberance and passion.
Neither of those opinions would necessarily be wrong. But they definitely wouldn’t be entirely right, either.
Each of our lives is made up of a series of moments, and in any one of those moments we might display any one of the multiple parts of who we are.
Does it mean that we get to behave however we want and never be accountable for our actions? No, definitely not. Does it mean that we are simply here having a human experience and part of that experience is living all of our layers? Absolutely. If we can just drop the labels, if we can stop trying to categorise ourselves (and each other) then we stand a chance of being able to be part of a global community that promotes respect and understanding.
None of us is the perfect person leading the perfect life.
I mess up all the time. I don’t always get it right, but these days I don’t dwell on it. I look for the lesson and then I move on. I’m not interested in repeatedly punishing myself. How does that serve me? How does self condemnation serve any of us? If we focus on acceptance and tolerance, then we can hope to make a difference. If we focus on criticising and vilifying then we stay stuck and everybody suffers.
I don’t follow a religion. I can’t get to grips with the idea of enlightened individuals that preach about hell. I prefer not to live my entire life in fear that I’m going to be judged at the end of it. I just do the best I can and I’m ok with that. Even when my best isn’t brilliant. Fear and judgment don’t inspire me. Kindness and benevolence do.
Can we express more empathy? Can we cultivate more compassion? Can we just accept that we’re going to screw up sometimes and so is everybody else. Nobody else is better than us. Or worse than us. Different, maybe, but that’s ok.
Let’s stop sewing ourselves into the refined versions of who we think we’re supposed to be.
Let’s be gloriously human.